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The Villages
Monday, June 17, 2024

Lifestyle changes can help prevent dementia

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

A new study found that a two-year program of personalized instruction on specific lifestyle changes helped to delay and prevent loss of memory in a study group of 172 people who were at high risk for dementia (JAMA Intern Med, Jan 1, 2024;184(1):54-62). The modifiable risk factors identified for this study included hearing loss, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking, air pollution, depression, levels of physical activity and socialization, and diabetes control (Lancet, 2020;396:413–446).

People in the special instruction group had a 74 percent greater improvement in memory, compared to the group that did not receive regular and continuous special instruction. The special instruction group also had a 145 percent improvement in risk factors and quality of life compared, to only an eight percent improvement in those who did not receive the instruction program.

The Study
People in the study were 70-89 years of age and had at least two of the modifiable risk factors for dementia. The group met with a health instructor and discussed dementia risk factors that were specific for them. They were told how to increase their activities, socialize with more people, and adopt behaviors that would help to decrease dementia risk, including:
• maintaining an active lifestyle with many different activities
• participating in activities with many different people
• actively using their brains by reading, using computers and solving problems, rather than being passive (lying in bed or sitting much of the time, watching television or staring out in space)
• managing high-risk health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, diabetes, pre-diabetes and so forth
Every three months, the control group was mailed materials covering the same topics of dementia prevention.

Risk Factors for Dementia and Heart Attacks
Everything that damages arteries is also associated with increased risk for heart attacks and dementia (Neurology, May 2024;102 (9)). This shared increased risk is associated with the same common pro-inflammatory risk factors (Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Dec 2021;17(12):1914-1922), and the American Heart Association reports that dementia is strongly associated with a pro-inflammatory diet (Stroke, Mar 15, 2021:52(6A);52:e295–e308). Therefore, the same diets and exercise programs that are recommended to help prevent inflammation associated with heart attacks are also recommended to help prevent and treat dementia.

My Recommendations
Dementia risk increases with age. Heart attacks and dementia have the same risk factors, so everyone should follow the anti-inflammatory lifestyle rules that help to prevent heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and many other diseases:
• Try to exercise every day
• Follow an anti-inflammatory, high-plant diet
• Avoid being overweight
• Avoid or severely limit alcohol
• Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
• Keep your vitamin D levels above 30 ng/mL

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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